He has accomplished much in his career and continues to shine. The man is in high demand—the real deal—a busy, busy guy. Why am I bragging? Well, to be honest he was a taaaaad clingy when it came to the women of the family. As the baby and only boy born to an Irish mother, it’s truly amazing he didn’t turn out to be a 40~ish loser still living with our Mumsie (though she’d love it—NO doubt about it).
At this stage in my brother’s life, I felt he needed to be toughened up a bit. And who better to help him along in his life’s journey than me, his sometimes-evil minded middle sibling. In my defense, I come by it honestly. There’s a mean streak gene that runs through our family like shit through a goose and it pops up unexpectedly. I have a lid on it as an adult, but as a kid–well, let’s just say I wielded it with glee. Most of the time it manifested itself in other harmless deeds (I won’t go into for legal reasons—ha ha just kidding. Maybe. Well, no. Not really).
Anyway, there was a time in my brother’s childhood he had been convinced he was adopted. I should have felt remorse for such a cruel lie and I did (mainly for the trouble I got into more than the Graham Cracker Kid’s hurt feelings). Still, you’d think after more than a few pranks pulled on him, he’d realize I really couldn’t be trusted. I will say this though—my con jobs did tend to get a bit more sophisticated over time—simply because he didn’t take me at my word anymore. I had to produce evidence. See? Kid was learning. Which is why I created fake adoption papers.
By all accounts it looked pretty legit—to a kid anyway. But, the kicker and stroke of genius on my part was slipping it into one of the top drawers of the roll-top desk. This was the desk where Mumsie paid bills, made grocery lists, figured the monthly budget—anything to do with running a household. However, the top row of drawers belonged to my Dad and was strictly off limits. Cue up Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor!
Anyway, when I informed my brother he was adopted, he didn’t believe me. When I insisted, he told me everyone said he looked like Dad—not true, everyone thought he looked like a girl. At least until the age of ten. Poor kid was even misidentified as such (on the front page of our local newspaper) when a group of us kids were photographed building the season’s first snowman on the frozen lake by our house.
But I digress.
I knew he didn’t want to believe even as he followed me into the dining room where the desk resided. As I reached into the forbidden top drawer his eyes became round as soccer balls. With a flourish, I retrieved the document, shook it out and began to read. When I was finished, he didn’t speak. A few minutes later our aunt pulled into the driveway and we went out and piled into her car. Then the floodgates opened and my brother cried all the way to Kmart. He wailed so loud and long my aunt was ready to dump him in a ditch (which would have horrified Mumsie, who had a ditch fixation and worried her kids would wind up dead in one). As we meandered around the store our aunt finally persuaded my brother the papers weren’t real and made me admit the truth.
Having been properly contrite our aunt happily dumped us in the nearest toy aisle to continue her shopping unencumbered. And that’s when I dragged my brother over to the ‘clearance’ corner and revealed he was purchased during a Blue-Light Special.
Photo credits/copyright: S. Romagnoli & Kevin F Campbell
“What the hell!”
I hooked the boat keys on the holder, retrieved an ice-cold peach tea from the little refrigerator and gulped a healthy swallow. The taste of peaches drowned my tongue in sweet nectar. I replaced the cap and applied the cold bottle to the back of my neck closing my eyes for a brief moment. “Nothing beats a Michigan summer.”
Silence. I cracked an eye. He looked upset.
“So, what’s got you riled up?”
Clearly agitated, he scrubbed his hands over his face. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees dangling his hands between his legs.
“Be straight with me. Did you know about those old biddies when you booked the charter?”
I searched my memory for a moment. “Oh, you mean The Mad Hatters. If I remember, they’re a naturalist club from Petoskey, right?”
His mouth dropped open, incredulous.
“Naturalists? That’s how they billed themselves?” His voice kicked up an octave. “They said they were a group of naturalists?”
I shrugged. “Yeah, so what’s the matter with that?”
He jumped up and paced the office. “There’s nothing the matter with that, Mandy except they aren’t naturalists.”
Puzzled by his mounting agitation, I shrugged. “So?”
“So? So?” he rounded on me. “Those old blue-hairs are naturists.”
“Naturists…” I repeated. Then it dawned on me. “You mean those women are nudists?” I burst into laughter. “Please don’t tell me they actually undressed while you were on board.
“Yes! Jesus!” He threw himself back onto the couch.
“As soon as we neared the private cove they threw off their muumuus and stripped to the skin. Their pasty-white, doughy, wrinkled skin.”
I couldn’t help it. Tears streamed down my face at his horrified expression.
“The only thing they kept on were those god-awful blue-sequined hats.”
He glared at me. “And what? And I tried not to lose my lunch—quit laughing it’s not funny.”
“No, it really is.”
“Christ on a cracker, I’ll never look at the color blue the same way again.”
“Or your gramma,” I added. I just couldn’t help myself.
“Fetch the bleach-” He rubbed the heel of his hand over an eyelid. “-I need to disinfect my eyeballs.”
I crossed the office and patted his head. “Well, at least it won’t be a surprise tomorrow.”
I winked at him and left.
“Hey, are you just gonna stand there?” My brother griped.
I lurched forward grabbed a foot and helped him drag the body into the room. I pressed two fingers to his neck praying for a pulse. Nothing.
“Holy hell, Lees, it’s Andy Parnello! Why is he here?”
I stared at my brother. “To die? Hell, I don’t know what he’s doing here.”
“Well shit! Who’d want to kill Andy?”
A question for later. I went to the desk and grabbed the landline.
“Ha! Proof right in front of you, my dear.” Carmela crowed as she walked in and stared at the body.
“Never mind that. Lock the damn door would you.”
As I hit the speed dial, I eyed the body.
“When did you read tarot on him?” Carmela asked. I slid the appointment book over to her and she flipped through the pages.
“February 9th/10:00am.” She looked up. “Three days ago.” Carmela’s smug expression irritated me. I turned away listening to the phone ring out. I closed my eyes. I truly did not expect dead bodies to find their way to my door. It certainly didn’t mean I was a Necromancer for God’s sake! Of course, great-great-grandma, Bifinia, possessed that particular talent and it seemed to only show up in the Luna women. Still, that didn’t mark me as the next one in line. I have enough on my plate trying to appear normal in a pazzo family.
“Crap.” I stuck my tongue out at the receiver and jammed it back on its cradle. “No answer.”
“Lees, you know better than anyone where we have to call it in.”
I leaned a hip against the edge of the scarred desk and sighed. “I know. I just don’t want too.”
My brother shook his head. “Want me to call, Murray?”
He gave me a ‘duh’ look. “Well, who you gonna call?”
In spite of the situation, I smiled. “Man, that phrase will never be usable again. Okay, fine, call him. I shoved away from the desk and rounded on him. “But be warned, brother. If I get hauled away in leg irons and thrown in jail the minute I’m released, I’m gonna kick your ass so hard you’ll be wearing it as a hat.”
Far from intimidated, my brother smirked and said, “You know what? You should–”
Unfortunately, I’ll never know what he was about to say because I woke up. And that, my friends, is the very last time I will ever eat chocolate before bed!
photo credits: photobucket
My sister is a few years older a fact I never fail to drive home when her birthday hits—like those two years really matter. It’s not as if I’m not right behind her riding that same banana peel. Anyway, we had a contentious relationship growing up, like siblings do, I suppose. That’s not to say we never managed to have fun—between the bouts of bitch-slapping, hair-pulling, name-calling, crying and threats to ‘tell dad’ there were many a time we were co-conspirators in some failed scheme to outwit, outlast and outplay our parent’s uncanny intuition. Little did we know it wasn’t so much their intuition at play, as it was the memories of the crap they tried to pull on their own parents. Every generation believes they’ll re-invent the wheel.
So, much to our dismay, we shared a room. Sadly, we were long past our childhood days of shared secrets and that old double bed where we slept back to back each in patterned nightgowns, our long hair rolled in sponge curlers usually on the eve of a special occasion, or holiday. Alas, the warm fuzzies of sisterly consolation was replaced by potent stages of teen-angst. The year I didn’t care if I was killed by an avalanche of dirty clothes, was the year she flew into a tizzy at the sight of a tee shirt hanging off a door knob. When I finally grasped the usefulness of hangars, she decided tossing clothes on the floor had its merits. We drifted on this way for a bit, and though our sisterly affections could be called crotchety at best, it wasn’t entirely acrimonious until the night my sister tacked up a poster of The Bay City Rollers (and yes, these people exist).
For weeks those five dorks with their hairless chests, high-water plaid bell-bottoms and acne made my life a misery. Their pimply faces were the last thing I saw when I went to bed and the first thing I woke up to. I did try to suggest Sis move the Teen Beat centerfold pic to a less prominent place like maybe the trash. After all, her highness had relegated my drool-worthy poster of Bruce Springsteen to the inside of my closet door. Yet, I was expected to live with her sad choice of manhood everyday for the rest of my life, or until another unfortunate band of goons took her fancy. Her dictate was totally unreasonable, and I decided I wasn’t going to put up with the injustice of the situation anymore.
Had I known the dire consequences my actions would precipitate…
I would have done it sooner!
So, with malice in my heart, I applied my jumbo pink eraser to the clownish face of guitarist, Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood. Now, at the time, I did have mixed feelings about erasing his face…No, nope, that’s total BS. I enjoyed it so much, I put a hole through the poster. Satisfied with my handy-work, I waited for the eruption. It wasn’t long in coming either. I’ll be honest; her reaction was waaay worse than I expected. Between the f-bombs, threats on my life and (gasp) a menacing vow to shred my beloved Springsteen poster, she dismantled her side of the room. She removed the bed, her dresser, nightstand, clothes and hauled them down to the unfinished basement. That afternoon she created a lair amongst the aluminum shelves overflowing with ice-skates, snow-mobile boots, fishing gear, cross-country skis, holiday paraphernalia–all eerily illuminated by one lone light bulb swinging overhead. It had all the coziness of a Black Ops interrogation facility, but without the charm.
However, despite the dismal atmosphere, she was freakishly happy, and no one stopped her since the parents were at work. However, our mother, whom we dubbed Worst Case Scenario Suzie (that’s another story) cajoled, pleaded and threatened my sister with bodily harm, as well as dire consequences of ill health to no avail. Sis remained unmoved. If she died of pneumonia so be it—she vowed to never share another room with me…EVER! Our dad’s reaction was less explosive; he shrugged and went back to reading the paper. Eventually, he took pity on Sis and built a bedroom for her where she could smoke her cigarettes and listen to her music with impunity. Well, not total impunity. Our baby brother was a bit of a Narc—but that too, is another story.
photos: creative commons/photobucket/royalty free
I could spend hours in my room with the stereo cranked to a decibel level high enough to shatter the drinking-glass Gramps kept his teeth in—and when I say he kept his teeth in there, I mean he never took them out. Not to eat, not to clean, not for pictures, nothing. However, that might not have been so odd if he never asked me to fetch them from the kitchen where they sat next to the toaster… smiling. And so, I fetched them only to set them by his plate, where he would stare at them while he ate his supper. Now, as strange as his behavior seemed it’s not really what I wanted to talk about.
Usually, I was relegated to wearing my headphones and turned the volume up on my stereo (yes, stereo) laid on my bed and let the Boss’s (that’s Bruce Springsteen to those of you living under a rock ‘lo these many decades) scratchy, husky voice take me away. Ahhh, sweet bliss.
On one particular Saturday afternoon everyone in the family went their separate ways. Mumsie and Sister went shopping; Brother finally managed to make friends with little irritants just like him, which meant I no longer had a 10 year old trailing around after me–and Dad decided to make use of the compact riding tiller to turn over the dirt in the back yard garden. This was a project I always looked on with two parts anticipation and dread, as it wasn’t anywhere near the modest gardens our neighbors kept. There were rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions, kohlrabi, carrots, mint, as well as, green beans and pea trellises. He even had a row of catnip for Shadow, our elusive, and–now I realize–continually high, cat. As much as I loved reaping the benefits, I absolutely loathed watering the friggin’ thing! Every day after school—growing arthritis in my thumb because that’s how you get the water to spray a wide arc; by holding it over the opening of the garden hose.
At any rate, Dad cranked up the tiller climbed into the enclosed cab and started on the soil. The motor was pretty loud and the garden large enough that I guessed Dad would be at it for quite awhile. I couldn’t pass up the chance to lose the headphones for a change and crank up Springsteen, since the possibility of Dad hearing the music was slim to none. Little did I know the events to unfold, and if it hadn’t been for the two old biddies that walked the neighborhood like it was a paying job—coming to Dad’s aid, he might have been seriously injured, or worse, dead.
Unbeknownst to me, he finished earlier than anticipated and was driving the tiller down the steep side yard near the road when he tipped over. Before he could jump free, he went over with the hefty piece of machinery and smacked his head on the only rock within acres of lawn. As it happened, he bit it right outside my bedroom window and the poor man tried calling out to me for a good five, okay, maybe ten minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear him over the music.
But hey, don’t blame me!
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